Saturday, August 5, 2017

Back Door to Hell

I DVRed the movie Back Door to Hell this morning because I saw that FXM Retro was going to be running it again tomorrow at 6:00 AM.

In the late 50s/early 60s tradition of trying to make pop singers into movie stars, this one star Jimmie Rogers as Lt. Craig. He's leading a mission with Burnett (Jack Nicholson) and Jersey (John Hackett). The three of them are to land on the island of Luzon in the Philippines in 1944, when it was still under occupation by imperial Japanese forces. The Americans are of course now winning the war, and since the Philippines were an American colony before Japan invaded, and Doulas Macarthur vowed to return, the Americans are planning to invade. They'd like to know more about how the Japanese are going to defend against a possible US invasion.

The three men are supposed to meet a particular contact, but instead meet guerrilla leader Paco (Conrad Maga). Maga executed that contact because Maga couldn't trust him, so obviously it's going to be tough for Craig and Paco to work together. Add to this the fact that the cynical Jersey thinks that Burnett is losing his leadership capbilities. It's partly because Craig sees the Japanese as human, so by the same token he doesn't like it when Paco tortures a Japanese commander to get information, and then executes one of the commander's underlings.

The ultimate goal is for the Americans to radio their information back to their superiors, because there's no way they're getting off the island. To that end, there's another underground group that would like the radio so they can use it for their own broadcasting needs. And they end up sabotaging the Americans' radio, so Craig and his men have to take over a Japanese shortwave transmitter in the climax of the movie.

Back Door to Hell is another of those short movies that Fox seemed to distribute a ton of in the era when they were making Cleopatra; I'd assume it was an easy and cheap way for the studio to have content. One thing that's particularly interesting about this one is that it was a co-production between an American and a Filipino company, filmed on location in the Philippines. There's really not much happening in this one, unsurprising when you consider it clocks in at a brief 68 minutes. But it's adequate for what it does.

If you're a Jack Nicholson completist or absolutely love love love World War II movies, you'll want to check this out. It is available on DVD, but the current release seems to be from the Fox MOD scheme, which makes it ridiculously pricey for the brief running time.

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